CARY — Emily Biggs opened her furniture studio knowing she would have to solve a complicated marketing puzzle, one that would determine how she would get customers in the door.
The former media specialist and marketing director also knew that it would take energy and money to come up with an effective marketing campaign.
“(Reaching customers) was going to take some smart planning,” Biggs said.
From Facebook and Twitter to direct mail and television commercials, marketing options are as varied as the demographics that business-to-consumer shops seek to attract.
However, there is a marketing method that small business owners can use to help cut through the madness. It’s called targeted marketing, and it involves a process of using logic, research and a bit of experimentation.
In 2012, marketers, including commercial and nonprofit organizations, were expected to spend $168.5 billion on direct marketing, accounting for 52.7 percent of all ad expenditures in the U.S., according to a Direct Marketing Association report. Those expenditures were expected to generate about $2.05 trillion in incremental sales, according to the report.
Targeted marketing is one of the first steps in building a customer base and creating a message for an integrated campaign in which business owners consistently push a product, service or theme, such as a workshop or a tailgate promotion, through various platforms, said Kim Adamof, a marketing consultant and owner of Raleigh Inbound Marketing.
“An integrated campaign ties all the marketing and social media pieces together,” Adamof said.
Small-business owners should start by identifying their most enthusiastic existing customers, or by conducting surveys to identify potential clients. Owners then need to develop a plan to reach that specific group and create a message that relays how their product or service solves that audience’s pain point.
“You have to figure out a subset that you can afford to go after, and go after in a powerful way,” said Fred Hathaway, managing director of strategy consulting firm Hippotential.
Social media research
Biggs’ South of France Furniture Studio, which opened in January, sells repurposed furnishings and offers workshops for do-it-yourself decorators. The workshops, Biggs said, are key to getting people into the store.
To attract customers, Biggs is using the targeted marketing approach.
Biggs advertised the store’s grand opening by sending a mass email to her existing contacts. She also hired a developer to build a website and help with search engine optimization, and hired Adamof to create a targeted social media campaign centered on increasing workshop participation.
To accomplish the latter, Adamof and Biggs worked together to identify people they thought would attend the workshops. .
“It could be anybody, but you can’t just say anybody,” Adamof said.
Small-business owners should identify who is already coming into their store and figure out which customers are “the most excited customers,” Adamof said.
Biggs and Adamof decided to focus on do-it-yourselfers, including subsets such as stay-at-home moms and women ages 50 to 60.
For Biggs, connecting to those target audiences means reaching out to influencers such as decorators and popular mom, arts and crafts and home improvement bloggers and websites, and building relationships with those people.
“Who is an influencer for this crafty type of business who we can target and either write a guest article on their site or let them review our workshop?” Adamof said. “What kind of relationship can we build to get them to put our business in front of their audience?”
Research and studies can help owners decide which social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, are best for their company.
Biggs built a Facebook page and Twitter account to target customers. To encourage people to like South of France’s Facebook page, Biggs set up a raffle. Adamof also recommends Facebook advertising.
“(Facebook ads) really allow you to drill down into your demographics,” Adamof said. “I recommend setting up multiple ads targeting different people and then watching the results.”
Adamof suggested that Biggs target decorators on Twitter by figuring out which hashtags they use and then determining which decorators are local.
Biggs’ strategy also includes researching her competition, engaging blog readers by answering their questions, and appealing to her Facebook group by posting demonstration videos and polls.
Philip Rubin and Phillip Zucchino opened The Wine Feed, a wine store and event space on Raleigh’s Glenwood Avenue, in 2011.
In the store’s second year, sales doubled, a success, Rubin said, that is due in part to a targeted marketing strategy that Hippotential’s Hathaway helped establish.
Hathaway worked with Rubin and Zucchino to identify groups of people who had been in their store and made repeat purchases. They divided The Wine Feed’s customers into five categories they sought to reach through their wine blog, website and social media.
Rubin and Zucchino established strategies to reach those core groups, including diversifying their products and teaming up with The Cupcake Shoppe, a Raleigh bakery, to host events and offer combined gift packages. The store also delivers, something that helps it stand out amongst the competition.
The Wine Feed owners changed their social media message to include information about wines and upcoming classes, enhanced the business’ online ordering and checkout process and redesigned their website, including incorporating a page that allows users to find wines by inputting criteria such as price and food pairings.
“It is like an online sommelier,” Hathaway said.
Hathaway, Rubin and Zucchino review the plan every three months and have marketing meetings in between. Hathaway said it helps to have situations in which the owners are responsible for their own marketing practices, including the owners executing and updating their own strategies.
“You find somebody who knows a little (about marketing) and then you hold yourself accountable,” Hathaway said.