thinking outside the square

Alice was determined not to fall down a hole and think outside the square instead.

We help you develop a marketing action plan in our Small Business Management course, which includes determining the correct marketing medium for your business, whether that includes traditional media or new online marketing mediums. In our breakfast meet-up this week, we talked to a local entrepreneur who shared her marketing success story with us.

Meet Alice…

For nearly 10 years, Alice in Paperland’s namesake and owner, Alice Totonjian, had operated her traditional, bricks-and-mortar paper craft factory outlet in Sydney when, about a year ago, she started to notice other paper craft stores just like hers were closing their doors, unable to compete with the online craft stores.

Concerned that Alice in Paperland may, too, face a similar fate, Alice was determined to transform her business and avoid going down the rabbit hole. “I decided to survey my customers and see what they wanted from a craft shop like mine,” Alice tells us. “They all told me that they liked the tangible experience of shopping at my store. They liked touching and feeling the products; the experience of shopping.”

Alice knew that closing her doors would be a mistake, but she also knew she had to do something to give her business an edge over the online competition. Alice decided to do some research, and discovered that many of her online competitors were only in business for approximately 12-18 months.

With this information, coupled with the feedback from her customers, Alice soon realised that she had something her online counterparts did not: a friendly face to do business with. But it was no longer enough to just expect her customers to continue to come to her — or at least not without giving them a good reason to. “So I bought a van,” Alice says.

Reaching Out to Her Customers: The Craft Roadshow

Alice was going to bring her paper wonderland to her customers, and travel to regional towns right across New South Wales with her van fully stocked with paper craft goodies. The first stop was Port Macquarie on the mid north coast of NSW. “I had planned for a quiet weekend away,” Alice says. “I expected we would have maybe 20 or 30 customers.

“But when I opened the door to the van that first morning, there was a queue winding right down the street! It’s just lucky I had brought enough stock.

“There were maybe 150 people, and they had travelled from all over — from Foster, Taree, Wauchope; some people had even travelled between 80 and 100kms just to be there!

“And they were stocking up, too. They were spending around $150 in each transaction, which is about three times the amount of your average sale.”

Advertising First: Community Radio

While Alice was overwhelmed by the response to her first craft roadshow, she hadn’t left the trip completely to chance. “I had done some advertising on the Port Macquarie community radio station, prior to the trip,” Alice says. By advertising on the local community radio station, Alice’s advertisement was broadcast right into the ears of her target demographic: retirees.

“I had previously tried Google Adwords, but that just wasn’t the correct medium for my business,” Alice says. “Most of the customers who came to the roadshow were retirees who didn’t have access to the internet.”

Google Adwords clearly wasn’t going to reach this untapped market of customers. Besides, as Alice already knew, her customers liked the tangible experience of coming to her shop, where they could ask for tips and advice while they were there, too; something that couldn’t be replicated online.

While Alice was in Port Macquarie, she also took the opportunity to capture some contact details to add to her mailing list, so she can keep her regional customers up-to-date with upcoming roadshows and other events.

After the success of her Port Macquarie roadshow, Alice began planning her next craft roadshow in Kurrajong — another roaring success — and now plans to travel right around NSW, perhaps even Australia. “Next stop: Cessnock,” Alice says. “Then, who knows!”

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In the Marketing Action Plan module of our SBM course, we discuss the importance of selecting the right advertising medium to deliver the maximum return on your investment (your advertising spend). Alice’s experiences with Google Adwords demonstrates just how important it is to know who your customers are and what they are doing—in Alice’s case, they were retirees who were actively looking for a physical craft store they could buy their craft supplies from, because they aren’t active online.

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