customer research

Promotion Shinjuku-style, Tokyo

Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 2

The Fashion Exchange has again been hosted by Enterprise Nation. It was a buzzy, creative, exciting platform for fashion startups and small businesses to meet faces from the industry, tec innovators, and the media.

Two common themes which ran throughout the day were the importance of ‘pushing the brand’ for fashion startups, and really knowing your customer. These points were recommended by many speakers – from small, successful fashion businesses, media gurus and PRs, to high street giants.

So, given that previous blog posts have covered getting to know your customer, plus the basics of promotion, pushing your brand now should be simple for you! But just how do you do it the easy, step-by-step way, and which method is right for you?

Tips on easy promotion

There is an array of low-cost promotional options open to you. A good way to approach this is thinking about how you will communicate with your customers. Consider also who and where your customers are and what exactly it is you want to tell them. Keep it appropriate to your brand and relevant to your customer. In the sections below, I have tried to keep your costs to a minimum so this doesn’t include marketing brochures or catalogues or paid advertising.

One-to-one communication

These can range from emails and phone calls to face-to-face meetings to networking events. Here, you need to know your pitch and what you aim to achieve from the exchange. Be prepared for it (business cards, samples or brochure, thirty-second sales pitch etc), fully research your ‘targeted’ people, and don’t be deterred – it gets easier and everyone finds it hard! Be sure to research the networking events and target those that will suit your business the most. Remember, everyone you meet is now a future contact, whom you can follow up again at a later date – relationship building!

Some good advice I have been given in the past is to have three ‘core messages’ and, like we see politicians do, repeat, repeat, repeat! Your core messages – which make you stand out and are true to your brand DNA – might be ‘quality and affordability, innovating with upcycled materials, funky and original clothes for kids.’ Etc…


Generally, publicity is achieved through the media via local radio or TV, magazines and newspapers, or online from bloggers or reviewers. Always specialise here so that you are targeting the right medium for your offer, and that they are a good match for your customer – you are more likely to achieve coverage this way. So if your offer is childrenswear or hand-crafted ceramics, research blogs, newspapers and supplements suited to these. Local media tend to be interested in local businesses doing something new or novel, or with a touching human interest story, preferably a triumph over tragedy, phoenix from the flames hook! Also, all media want to focus on a current news story, so if your offer can piggy-back onto something happening in the news, push this angle!

To contact the media and bloggers you will need to: build a database of contact details such as job title/responsibility, copy deadline, issue date etc. Email a press release with images (low resolution included, high resolution on request) and include this in the body of email, not as an attachment, and make sure you capture attention in subject line. All information that the journalist (or blogger) needs should be in first two paragraphs as this is where they will cut off.

Ensure your contact email and phone number is included along with social media links. Ask yourself: Why is this NEWS? Why is this of benefit to them? If it’s possible, be brave and phone to pitch the ‘story’ then send it in and follow it up. Again, don’t be deterred – build a relationship with the media, and repeatedly contact them with new stories, images, angles – why not conduct a small survey to produce a relevant and new finding in your area of expertise?

And always, always return any phone call from the media immediately, or to any request to send information or images. Otherwise they will find someone else!


Here you might be giving talks or demonstrations, or co-hosting an event, or have a stand at a trade event. First, research some existing events and ensure they are appropriate – think about budget, attendance numbers, location and if it’s really the right audience. Be prepared to pitch yourself, your product/technique etc for a slot at the event and send the organisers images, links, video, testimonials, or details of your experience etc. If you have booked a stand at a trade event where you are hoping to attract buyers, make contact beforehand and invite them along or make an appointment.

Or you can network locally and find partners to create an event with – local crafts people and designer-makers, you all want to raise your profile and build sales! Ensure you have a photographer there and invite the press to come by sending out a (targeted) press release.

Think of events as opportunities to extend your network, find new partners or customers, and also to generate content (behind the scenes photos and video and quotes) for your website and social media.

Social media

I would bet that you are all pretty familiar with social media by now so I will just add a few pointers. Pick the platforms that you know your customers like using, post regularly (several times a week as a minimum) by sharing and commenting on relevant content that comes into your own news feed. Find and follow relevant people and organisations, try and build a relationship with them through a direct contact to say hello and compliment a post/their website etc.

In terms of preparation, have a content library ready in advance, where you have prepared posts ahead of time and ensure you have strong low resolution images of your work. Think about whether you could use video to illustrate a unique process of your work, and if your offer is visual, Pinterest and Instagram are a must. Link all these platforms to your website and set up free Google Analytics so you can track traffic.

Tips from Topshop at the Fashion Exchange included keeping the content short, sharp and shareable, use behind the scenes images and tailor this to different platforms, not just repeating it. Plus be original, but do piggy-back onto trends.

If you are newly online and trying to build your up communities, Topshop suggested to use Twitter to @ and other media to tag celebrities in their feeds, even send them products to endorse! Plus approach bloggers and identify influencers relevant to your brand and your customer, and build these relationships.

Blogs and e-newsletters

Could you be an expert in your field? Consider blogging, even brief posts, about the area that your work is in, commenting on items in the news or observations that you have made. Aim to do short, tight and edited posts once a week or so with, once again, those good quality low resolution images.

Start out by researching and following blogs relevant to your offer and area of expertise e.g. handcrafted in the UK, and start to post and ‘seed’ into these comment feeds. Provide helpful information with a gently placed link back to your own blog. Build up interaction, and always, always respond to comments on your blog. Blogs are surprisingly easy to set up using free platforms such as WordPress (as used by yours truly) and Blogger to name but two.

Lastly, think about e-newsletters. I have clients who use this successfully to update their previous customers (a good opportunity to capture their email addresses) on new ranges and events or recent successes. Keep your copy tight and show those lovely images! Issue these monthly or quarterly, whenever you have enough to say.

With all social media, blog, newsletter and website work, build up a content library – always have a camera with you, jot down ideas and quick notes as you have them, perhaps on your phone, then you are ready to post!

So, now that you are armed with this easy, step-by-step guide to pushing your brand out there, I look forward to seeing you take the media, and the fashion industry, by storm! Good luck!

If you have any questions after reading this, or would like me to work with you on your fashion or creative business, then feel free to email me on, or drop a comment on the blog.






Brand devotion to Nike in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Easy Marketing Strategy

At last the winter gloom is retreating, along with the withdrawal of shop window ‘sales’ signs and the recycling of Easter egg boxes. In spring, brands large and small can harness their promotional calendar, seizing the season’s many events and bank holidays as opportunities to promote their offer and grow sales. This all must stem, of course, from a carefully honed marketing strategy…

What is a marketing strategy?

In this post, we will explore how your fashion or creative start-up can develop an easy marketing strategy. In laymen’s terms, this is how you – consistently, across all platforms – promote your products or offers to your consumer to entice them to buy. This ensures all your marketing and promotional activities are in sync, cohesive and with a consistent brand identity and tone of voice reflecting your brand so your customers come to recognise and trust it. Not, as we are all – unfortunately – familiar with, a rushed and regrettable scatter-gun approach which didn’t achieve what we wanted…

This blog post will take you step-by-step through three stages – identifying your business’s marketing mix, understanding the objectives of a marketing strategy and, going forward, considering your business’s direction.

Why do I need a marketing strategy?

Having a road map and plan for what marketing activities you will do and how and where you will promote these lessens the risk of wasting money and time, and missing – or worse, confusing  and alienating – your customer. Thinking your marketing through gives you the opportunity to keep a tight focus on your message, your visual identity, the tone and message of communications, and the objective – the goal – for either brand awareness or short term sales. All this ultimately leads to an ongoing and financially rewarding relationship with your customers = sales!

The Marketing Mix – the 7Ps

Right at the heart of any marketing strategy sits the Marketing Mix, or 7Ps: product, price, place, promotion, people, physical evidence and process. The 7Ps is a very simple and easy to use theory; in essence, it’s a framework for getting all your business’s ducks (or Easter chicks) in a row. I cut my marketing teeth on this some fifteen years ago from David Jobber[i] and still use it with my fashion and creative clients whether pre-start or more established SMEs. It’s that easy!

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, this is: “Successful marketing depends upon addressing a number of key issues: what a company is going to produce, how much it is going to charge, how it is going to deliver its products or services, and how it will tell its customers about this.”

So, any marketing mix must ensure offering the right product (or service) at the right price point, in the right place(s) for the customer, with the right promotion, with trained people (staff/after sales), considering all physical attributes (store, packaging, logo), with ease of consumer process.

This all serves to build that better relationship with your customers. So, in practice, this means getting to grips with:

Product – What is my product? Does the customer want it???

Price – How much will the customer pay? And how much do competitors charge?

Place – Where does the customer shop? Online or local?

Promotion – How will it be promoted and where? Is this relevant to my customer and will they see it?

People – Whether its trade fairs, pop-ups, galleries or department store concessions, who will be selling?

Physical evidence  – Spanning appearance, packaging and brand identity – this is the first thing your customer sees.

Process – Quick, convenient, easy, secure, and with good after sales/returns options. Remove the barriers and give them a good experience and reason to return!

Planning an easy marketing strategy

Now armed with a clear understanding of your own mix or offer, you can develop a simple strategy or guidelines from it. I would recommend my ‘what, who, how, where, when, why’ approach – your marketing objectives:

What – what is it that I am selling or communicating? The offer or product in your 7Ps.

Who – who is my customer? What do I know about them – age, gender, spending power, spending frequency etc?

How – how will I reach them? Through events, pop-up shops, or regular host website or stockist (the ‘channel’) – direct or indirect distribution strategy?

Where – where is my customer, are they local, online or reached via a catalogue, are they actual end consumers or stockists and retailers?

When – when will this start and how long will it last?

Why – why am I doing this? What am I trying to achieve? The marketing objectives – sales, new customers, brand loyalty building etc.

How (again!) – how will I measure the success of this? Customer feedback, sales and turnover, Google analytics, or feedback from the retailer, etc.

For your overall marketing, the above provides an overview and a guide to refer to. However, you should break this down further so that with each promotion that you undertake, you set out these objectives too – whether this is a social media competition campaign, or invitations to an event or pop-up. We will explore this in my next posts Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 1 and Part 2.

What is vital in both instances is that you thoroughly know your offer (yes, this sounds obvious, but often this can be easily diluted when desperate for sales), you know your customer, and you are keeping tabs on your competitors’ activities. In my earlier blog posts on market research, customer research and competitor research, I have explored these issues, but this knowledge is again necessary to make sure your marketing really hits home. If you want to undertake more rigorous and full research, then take a look at The Design Trust’s [ii] recent post The Design Doctor: How can I do market research which is a helpful guide.

But what if you are a little further down the line with your business, or are just more confident in your marketing? Perhaps it is time to refocus and rethink, to reach out to new customers and expand into new markets, or develop your product range? Where should you begin? This is where Ansoff’s Matrix comes in.

Ansoff’s Matrix

Over sixty years old as a theory and practical guide for marketing, Ansoff’s Matrix[iii] from 1957 shows that no matter how you might develop your business, ultimately there are only four simple directions that you can go in. I always use this with my clients as it is great for clarifying direction and focusing, plus highlighting areas of risk – crucial for start-ups and SMEs.

Ansoff’s Matrix



This means you develop your business in one of four ways:

Existing products in existing markets

Here, you don’t spend money on developing any new products or investigating new markets (regions or customers) but instead focus on promotion, perhaps in new ways to pique existing customers’ interest. This is the lowest ‘risk’ as you are sticking with what you know but you still need time and money spent on promotion.

New products in existing markets

You might introduce a new prints or homewares line to your current customers and overall market. You will have spent time and effort on product development and have built up inventory – you need to be sure to sell these products, will your existing customers want them? This carries some risk financially, and also risks potentially alienating customers.

Existing products in new markets

You might export your existing menswear accessories range anew to Japan or India, or to new age groups or genders in the UK. Here, you don’t develop new products but the market is as yet unknown (cultural differences, export taxes, exchange rates etc), so is still risky and costly.

New products in new markets

Here you would combine new products and expansion into new geographic or customer markets. This is the most risky and unknown combination. Be sure to fully research, take advice and build financial contingencies in here.

So, back to strategy and promoting your products or offers. To sum up, you will now have understood the different components of your own marketing mix and ensured that they are in sync – this creates a cohesive package that is more identifiable and less confusing for your customer.  You will fully understand who your customer is and where and how to reach them from your research, and also know your competitors and their activities inside out, again from your earlier research. You may even know your new direction – developing new products, or venturing into new markets.

Now your next steps are to start planning some promotions! And this I will cover next time in Creative Planning Next Steps 6: Easy Ways to Promote Your Business, Part 1 and Part 2 where we will look at the different types of promotion that are right for your business, where to get ideas, and how to plan them into a promotional calendar.

Until then, enjoy spring!

If you have any questions after reading this, or would like me to work with you on your creative business, then feel free to email me on, or drop a comment on the blog.


[i]Jobber, D. (2012) Principles and Practices of Marketing, 6th Edition, McGraw-Hill




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Tourist shop in Kyoto, Japan

How to do customer research to get more sales right now

As a creative marketer, a lot of my time spent researching, teaching and working with clients is talking about product, brand, customer loyalty and sales. Well, my clients talk about sales, we talk about that less in academia… Not much time is spent talking about WHO the customer is.

Our poor customers are further neglected – mostly my clients talk to me about their ‘target customer’ and it might go something like this:

Me: “Okay, so tell me who your customer is…”

Client: (Mulls this one over awkwardly /jumps in immediately with PR blurb) “someone on a good to high income, someone who is design led and edgy, likes good quality pieces and something a bit different, someone who is aspirational, maybe a bit quirky. Ideally, it would be ———- ———- from that show on the telly. We love her”.

I continue the conversation by asking who ACTUALLY is buying their product, where their sales are actually coming from. Unfortunately, this is almost always an unknown answer.

Yesterday, I met with one of my menswear clients and we chatted about the apparent gap between the academic focus on research and strategy in teaching design students, and the desire among fashion and creative start-ups (and larger organisations) to learn about how to achieve sales. And sales right now.

I absolutely believe that if your business is struggling to achieve sales, this is because there is a problem somewhere – often an easily rectifiable problem. This could be an issue with the design, the price, how and where it is promoted or sold, OR that you are trying to sell it to the wrong customer.

Knowing your customer, and knowing what they think of your offer, is understanding the problem, which is a major part of achieving sales right now. It is also a fundamental part of building a brand through long term customer loyalty. And in the digital age, the power of the happy consumer is high – they take to cyberspace in review forums, Facebook and Twitter et al to laud (or lambast) products and experiences. And where good reviews flow, customers and sales will follow.

One of the speakers at Marketing Week Live! at Olympia this June told of his research into his customer’s preference for word-of-mouth referrals: online reviews are now replacing family and friends as trusted sources when deciding whether to buy. And for start-ups, growing a social media community full of post-purchase satisfied customers that talk about how great your product is (and how it has met their needs) is gold dust. N.B. See suggestions below on how to do this through your research…

So, research and knowing who your customer is = more sales. Simple!

Step 1: gather some info – background research

Hang on, before I start – don’t I have to do hundreds of questionnaires for research to be valid? How will I analyse all that???

Here I would say you are undertaking a sample to take the temperature of your customers. I suggest that you read through all your responses and work with really significant comments or any trends and themes that come up. Just do as much research as you can time-wise and leave the mega-research to the large scale corporates!

So, how do I know who my customer is?

Your customer is who is buying your product, currently or recently. And by customer, I mean end customer or person. Unless your customer base is trade and you sell business to business.

If you sell online from your own website, you will have some data on your sign-up form. What – no sign up form??? Okay, more on that later…

If you have physical (as opposed to digital) stockists, visit the store and find out who is buying or not buying your product. Also, note if people are not looking at your product. But don’t just observe, speak to customers in your stockists – this is the best opportunity, and better than speaking to staff although this is also useful. But you have to ask the right questions. Again, more on that later…

If you have digital stockists, you will need to speak to them about how they can help you with your data. They –hopefully – can arrange some reports, if you are not able to access these directly yourself.

Back to the sign-up form. Many start-ups think they have clients’ details on Facebook or perhaps Twitter through likes or shares. You want to capture their email addresses and find out more about who and where they are, and to keep in touch with them – social media doesn’t tell you this, and they may move or close accounts, or just be infrequent users. On your website you can easily include a sign-up form and ask questions about email address, gender, location, postal address, age if you wish and an opt-in (legally required) to receive emails. On social media, you could run a genuine competition to drum up interest (e.g. new product launch or Christmas etc) and part of the entry process is filling in a form with the above details and again the opt-in. You would then publicise the lucky winner back on Facebook etc. This will give you social media content, and the forms give you necessary info, but also… a mailing list!!!

How do I know if they are buying my products?

On your own website you can follow your click-through and analytics data (for example free Google Analytics) – you can see where they have come from (e.g. your Facebook page, or from online publicity), what part of your website they explored, and also if they have visited you but not bought several times or stalled on a specific page– this suggests there is an issue, we will explore the buying process later. With stockists, visit the store and speak to the staff and buyers – it is good practise to be checking in very regularly to see what is selling and what isn’t. You want your stockist to keep you on if sales are low, and a good relationship where you can offer an alternative product is important.

How do I know what they are buying?

Again, online, you will have a record of sales and products sold. You will see what’s selling and not selling. Not selling is an issue. In stockists, from your observation or staff and buyer feedback from specific questions.

How do I know what they are not buying?

Here, the question really is “how do I know WHY they are not buying?” Presumably you are aware of what customers like and don’t like – this is evident in what is selling and what isn’t. But make sure you do keep track, and not just assume…

When I was studying my Masters degree, I worked part-time for a small womenswear designer in Glasgow. From my desk in the office/workshop overlooking the store, I was developing a marketing plan. For this, I explored with the designers who their customer was, how often they shopped, how much they spent, whether they were repeat customers, what the best selling products were etc, etc. Then, just to be sure, I conducted – very basic –research through a simple questionnaire and chatting to the customers about these same points. The difference in answers was incredible – these really lovely, talented and hard working designers who were in the same place as their customer were completely wrong about who their customer was, what they liked or wanted or what they were willing to spend. The designers were still thinking about their target customers and how they would like them to be. They weren’t asking the right questions…

Step 2: customer research – ask the right questions

What you really want to know is:

  1. why are they not buying my product
  2. why are they not buying more of my product more often
  3. how can I get them to buy more of my product more often

Of course, you can just come out and ask these questions on your website, via social media, face-to-face at the stockist or your own store. But a more softly, softly approach is recommended. With lots of thanks at the end! You can even turn it into content for your social media – Instagram photos of happy shoppers showing products they like (or have bought if online) with a ‘why they like it caption’.

I am a real fan of a short questionnaire. If you are face-to-face with your customer, you can ask these questions in an informal, chatty way. Online you can do a short poll, or ask for open feedback in a post. If you want more information you can create a form with a hyperlink. Look at Survey Monkey or Google Forms amongst others.  Any of these ways, encourage people to answer your few questions by offering them a thank you – a small discount off their next/first purchase, or a free gift. You would need to provide them with a promotional code that they then give at the time of purchase (and that you remember to apply!).

I would suggest you ask questions similar to the samples below, in your own words. You will need to create a couple of multiple-choice options, options to select yes or no, and also leave space for the customer to explain:

  1. Please tell me your gender: Male/Female
  2. Please tell me your age from the following brackets: 18-24, 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80+ You might want to adjust these brackets and make smaller or larger. Be careful not to overlap numbers!
  3. Are you likely to buy from (your brand)? Yes/No. If no, please tell me why not.
  4. If yes, which product(s) are you most likely to buy?
  5. If yes, what has encouraged you to buy?
  6. If yes, is there specific occasion or purpose for buying our products?
  7. If there was anything we could change about the design of our products, what would it be and why?
  8. What do you think of the price of our products? Too expensive, about right, could charge more (multiple choice option). Please explain why.
  9. Have you found it easy to find and explore our products? Yes/No. Please tell me why or why not.
  10. Is there anything we can do to make this process easier for you? If yes, please explain.
  11. How did you hear about (your brand)? Please tell me where.
  12. What newspapers/magazines/social media/blogs/review sites/other media do you normally visit? (Here you can do multiple choice for each and include an option for ‘other’, or ask it as an open question).
  13. Where do you normally buy (similar products) from? Please tell me why.

These questions will tell you what customers like about your product and don’t like, what is encouraging them to buy or will encourage them to buy, what’s working well online or instore for them, and where the barriers are. This will help you make changes to build more sales.

I would recommend you ask all these questions, but you can edit this list if you wish. However, questions 1, 2, will tell you who your customer is, and questions 11, 12 will tell you where you can promote your products more successfully. Question 6 will tell you the type of products that are selling e.g. workwear, weddings etc, and also so you can promote these somewhere suitable. Question 13 is worth asking because these are your competitors, and once you know who your customers are buying from as well as (or instead of) you, then you can make changes to build more sales.

All this research stuff might sound like a bit of an effort. Perhaps you don’t want to hear negative views? Or perhaps you feel slightly awkward asking questions?

But let’s imagine what happens if you don’t do your background research on your customer, or you don’t ask them for feedback: you won’t know anything about them, where they are, how to reach them, what they want to buy, how much they want to pay for it, and, crucially, why you are not making enough sales. Most likely, you will continue to not make enough sales right now…

So here’s to sales! I wish you the best of luck with it.

If you have any questions after reading this, then feel free to email me on, or drop a comment on the blog.

Next Creative Planning Basics post: Competitor research: Competitors – yes, you do have them, and why you need to know all about them.