Understanding your client base and creating the right message

Client base

By trying to appeal to everyone it’s easy to lose the clarity of your marketing message, and in turn your core client base, writes Hellen Ward.

A new shop recently opened on the Fulham Road, near where I live. Noticing a beautiful black lace, vintage Chanel dress in the window, I naturally went in to have a look. There was a rail of vintage designer clothes, a bookcase with a small selection of pre-owned designer handbags and shoes on the shelves, and several really beautiful pieces of jewellery. On a table in the corner was a pile of books next to a coffee machine and bar, with a coffee table tome on Bowie on the top. I then noticed a sign saying “Tuesday night is Jazz night”, pointing to a previously unnoticed downstairs area.

Baffled, I asked: “sorry, what exactly are you here? A dress exchange? Club? Bookshop? Café? Bar?” “Well, yes, we’re all of those things and more. We try to be a lifestyle shop,” said the jovial owner. “And I love jazz so we want to encourage a jazz club downstairs. Do you like jazz?”, he asked. 

Don't be vague, spell out the obvious 

I hate jazz. My musical taste is firmly of the indie persuasion. I can’t stand all that plinkety-plonkety stuff that feels like it’s going on forever. “Sorry, no,” I admitted. That was a shame, he said, as he thought I might help him get it off the ground. “We need new people to discover us”. My heart sank for him. Nobody was going to discover a jazz club hidden at the back of what appears to be a boutique – especially one with a man’s name over the door that didn’t say what it was.

People don’t understand vague. They need you to spell out the obvious. They need to know what to expect before they walk in so they can pigeonhole what the shop is selling and who it’s for in order to put it into context. Now, there are some areas of London where a shop like that might work – Shoreditch or Brick Lane, perhaps – but this is Fulham. The concept is a bit “out there” for your average yummy mummy. Each of the elements would work in its own right, but all together? No.

We sometimes forget consumer behaviour – how people need to feel before they get the courage to walk into a shop or a salon. It happens to us all the time – the most common compliment we get from new customers is how friendly and welcoming our team is. Often, clients say they had a preconceived idea of what to expect, and maybe felt slightly intimated before they came, but left feeling relaxed.

Create your brand mantra 

This all demonstrates my branding mantras. Find out what people want and give it to them. Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers. Be clear. Be obvious. Be Ronseal (which “does what it says on the tin”). Don’t try to be all things to all people; a jack of all trades and master of none. Market your services clearly and concisely. Leave people in no doubt about what you do and who you are if you want to succeed. Hammer home the message to win the customer.

By the way, some six weeks after it opened, the shop has now closed. Shame…that vintage Chanel dress had my name on it.

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and chair of Trailblazers for the hairdressing sector.