We are now up to Part 4 in this series (Part 1: The Idea, Part 2: The Goods and Part 3: Business Basics) and it is now that we are focused on attracting the customers. As I have covered, even though the footwork to get a business up and running seems like you have gotten more than half way to your goal, you are not even close. This stage is the most important one.
I will mention that we have been thinking a lot about the customers – who they are, what they want and what they will pay – but you cannot invite them in to use your service until all of the pieces are in place. That is where we are now.
I broke down the potential market into 3 segments in order to develop the plan to attract the right customers:
- Businesses (HR departments)
For each of these segments, I devised a plan. The “Moms” group was the one that I was going to spend the least amount of effort on (about 10%) as there is no easy way to connect with them (this was pre-social media days). But I felt that they still offered an avenue for business. My main approach with them was to place my glossy brochures in places that I knew they would frequent. In what could be called a minimal “guerrilla marketing” effort, I would stick a brochure into every magazine at any office I visited, like doctor, dentist, auto repair, etc. That way, the next time a person was reading the magazine, the brochure would drop into their lap.
“Retail” was the focus of the next largest effort, at around 20%. I worked with some local vendors, like a second-hand clothing store, a health center and a pre-Kindergarten learning center, to display one of my baskets with a stack of brochures. Each brochure had a code on it so that I could track any orders from there and I offered to give the retailer a 20% commission for any sales. I found that having the actual basket on display (not for sale) made a big difference in getting a sale.
Finally, as you have figured out, I spent the majority of my efforts (70%+) on the “Business” segment. My research and experience in the Washington, DC, area was that there were a lot of companies who had young staff who were beginning their family lives. By working for a few of these businesses, I saw that the Human Resources (HR) department would routinely send flowers or candy or a cute Teddy Bear to the family upon the birth of a baby. This happened even for companies where the Dad worked.
So I decided to target the business HR departments with an idea of being unique and different with their gift. If they were going to send something nice, why not send something special that the family will continue to use for years. It is a gift that parents will not soon forget. My pitch worked, as the vast majority of my revenues were from businesses. I developed a relationship with some very large companies, some of whom were ordering 2-5 baskets a week!
One segment of those businesses were the financial companies on Wall Street. Word had spread and before I knew it, almost every major firm was sending our baskets. The best part was that they always ordered the most expensive basket and paid for the extra “rush” processing – no questions asked. That boost to our profit margins helped fuel the growth of the business.
I also knew that once a family of childbearing years received one of our baskets, that they were likely to order a basket for their friends or relatives who were also most likely having babies. This worked extremely well. We received many notes on our orders that indicated that they had received a basket and wanted to send this unique and appreciated gift, too.
Business was booming! I was so excited. Then it happened: we were “mystery shopped” by the “Catalog Critic” of no other than the Wall Street Journal!
The review published in the Wall Street Journal changed the course of the Baby Necessities gift basket business. In my next (and final post) of this series, I will explain what happened and how I responded.