By Jake Voelcker, owner, Bicycleworks
So you want to start advertising to increase sales. Who should you target first?
It’s never been more important for independent bike shops to advertise and promote themselves. Competing not only with other local bike shops, but also with large websites, direct-to-consumer brands and even competitors all over the globe, it’s essential to get your message out there and remind people of your presence and your unique selling points. But it is all too easy for your voice to get drowned out by the larger competitors unless you target your advertising very carefully.
Who should you target?
Surely you should target everyone? Reach as many people as possible?
No! This scatter-gun approach is too unfocused and will mean your efforts are spread too thin, reaching lots of completely uninterested people and very few real customers.
Or would it be most effective to choose a new audience? Identify, for example, middle-aged road cyclists with high disposable income? Bring new customers of this type into your shop?
No again! Effectively targeting a specific group like this is an art that large companies spend millions on, and because they are already doing it, they will dilute your efforts, and your message will become lost (unless you too spend millions on advertising).
Or maybe look at new product ranges? Add some on-trend bikes to bring in a young crowd?
Not this either. Investing in new product ranges is expensive, and shifts your focus away from your core business, and could confuse or alienate your existing customers.
The people you should advertise to first are your existing customers. It is almost always cheaper, easier and much more effective to target your existing audience, using your existing products. This is the low-hanging fruit that it makes sense to go for first.
Why? Your existing customers already know you. They have bought from you before, so they clearly trust you and are happy with the service. They are much more likely to buy from you than even the most carefully targeted new audience. And they will recommend you to others.
At the Bicycleworks flagship store in Bristol, we consistently find that every time we send a newsletter to our customers, there is a little flurry of enquiries and sales soon afterwards. Sending reminders to customers who have made enquiries or received quotes has an even more noticeable effect on our sales. And these things can be done for free, without having to pay for any advertising.
How to advertise to existing customers
Every time a customer enquires about a bike or goes for a test-ride, issue a quote straight afterwards. The customer is happy because they have the price in writing, and a handy reminder of the bike size and spec. And you are happy because you have captured the customer’s contact details. Two or three days later, send a friendly two-line email asking if they have any further questions or if they’d like a second test-ride. You’ll be amazed at how many sales result.
Revisit your enquiries
Look back over your emails from the last couple of weeks. How many customers sent an enquiry, but never got back to you after you’d replied? A quick phone call or a short follow-up email to all these just to see if you can offer any more help will not only result in a few extra sales, but also most customers will be pleased and grateful that you took the time, and will think of you next time they need anything cycling-related.
Start a membership club
Could you offer a ‘VIP membership’ to regular customers? Or freebies for customers who sign up for shop rides? Or start a bike care plan, whereby customers pay a monthly fee in return for a discounted annual service? Whichever you choose, the point is customers who sign up will feel loyalty and affinity for your shop, and will be less likely to go elsewhere for their purchases.
Encourage reviews and testimonials
Set up an email template to ask customers: “How did you enjoy your visit to us?” Then set up a second email template, so that any customers who reply with positive feedback get asked: “Thank you for your great feedback! Do you have two minutes to leave us a review?” and provide a link to your Facebook or Google page or Trustpilot listing. This way, you will have a constant supply of positive, recent reviews which are all genuine and authentic: an excellent (and free) way of promoting your business.
Start a newsletter
There are many providers to choose from, and most are free until you have a large audience. Mailchimp, for example, is free for mailing lists with fewer than 2,000 subscribers. Add a simple sign-up form to your website, ask customers if they’d like to sign up whenever they buy a bike or book into your workshop, and soon you’ll have hundreds of subscribers. Make the newsletters short, friendly and genuinely useful and customers will love you for it and won’t see it as spam or advertising.
Should you ever advertise to a new audience?
This isn’t to say you should never try new products or target new audiences. For example, there is a potentially huge untapped audience of people who might like to start cycling, but aren’t yet regular cyclists. However, it’s difficult and expensive for a small business to reach these people directly. If you don’t do much marketing or advertising yet, this definitely isn’t the place to start!
Start with your existing customers. Only once you have a good system set up to regularly target and retarget your existing customers (see above for ideas) should you think about moving on to target new audiences.
Jake Voelcker, owner, Bicycleworks –www.bicycleworks.co.uk
Bicycleworks offers everything you need to launch your own bike brand and build bikes in-house.